Monday, December 31, 2012

The Best, Worst and 'Meh' of 2012- Part 1: The Honorable Mentions/Nice Try, But No Cigar

The Best, Worst and 'Meh' of 2012 

Part 1: The Honorable Mentions (that were candidates for my 10 favorite albums of 2012)


Nice try, But No Cigar (in other words, the 'Meh' albums that were well-meaning in their own right, but could have been better in some aspects)

Honorable mention albums (in no particular order):

How to Destroy Angels- An Omen
I’ve come to realize that maybe Trent Reznor these days is a more shrewd businessman that I previously thought: two EPs of a relatively consistent nature, both of which build up anticipation towards the release of their proper album dropping in spring 2013. For now, this EP confidently sells the justification of this side project.

El-P- Cancer 4 Cure
This album and R.A.P. Music almost sound like companion pieces to a greater whole that El-P wanted to accomplish in 2012. May he never take it easy on himself for our benefit.

Chromatics- Kill for Love
Interesting concept, even when in sleeper mode. This band may owe a huge sonic debt to the Cure (like Beach House), but since Robert Smith didn’t release an album this year (breaking their recent string of albums released 4 years apart), the Chromatics had to fill in for them, and made it nearly 80 minutes of hypnotic fun. A sweeter Disintegration, if you will.

Beach House- Bloom
A spacious record that tends to be positive about feeling down. One of the best indie rock/dream pop albums 2012 had to offer.

Flying Lotus- Until the Quiet Comes
Electronica music for the ghosts of Miles Davis and John Coltrane to chill to. Fires brief rounds of brilliant songs in your ears, and has Radiohead’s seal of approval.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse- Psychedelic Pill
The world thought it would be ending this year, but Neil was jamming like it was 1969 again, and did a splendid job of recreating the psychedelic spirit from that special era. The album cover makes the older fans feel at home again.

Neurosis- Honor Found in Decay
Steve Albini uses his disgruntled powers of raw studio magic to give Neurosis the vital sound that they need at this point in their career.

Sleigh Bells- Reign of Terror
Most times, listening to this album feels like sticking a fork into a wall socket, but without the threat of dying a painful death holding you back from feeling great. “Crush” “End of the Line”

Bob Dylan- Tempest
Dylan manages to make his 35th album valuable currency in his catalogue, even when he is a blatantly aging music legend. If this ends up being his last album anyway, he would have gone out strong. “Tin Angel”

Japandroids- Celebration Rock
I like modest indie records that roar with purpose. Plus, the fact that they know the importance of pacing 8 tracks over 35 minutes deserves recognition too.

Grimes- Visions
Gives hope to people like me who believe in the power of Garageband software to make a great collective work.

Andy Stott- Luxury Problems
My liking for this album has something to do with my desire to fall asleep peacefully. This album definitely does the trick for me on the nights I play it to wind down.

Rush- Clockwork Angels
Note how the position of the hands on the clock reference 2112. Cool, ain’t it? There’s no way of telling how this will stand out from their staggering 40-year discography, but as of now it feels right for the time.

Converge- All We Love We Leave Behind
An album that beats your ears and brain mercilessly for just over half an hour, but you end up thanking them for it.

Big Boi- Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors
As much as Big Boi would like to stray into his own funk territory, there’s just no denying his roots as a member of OutKast. Not quite on par with Sir Lucious Left Foot, but is still an admirable effort nonetheless. “Mama Told Me”

Nice Try, But No Cigar (the 'Meh' albums I wish were better; again, in no particular order)

Smashing Pumpkins- Oceania
The band may be fully formed again, but it’s still under the same management. Doesn’t help that Billy felt the need to stretch out emasculated psychedelic sounds over an hour. “Pale Horse” (as corny as it sounds sometimes) “Pinwheels”

Animal Collective- Centipede Hz
Following Merriweather Post Pavilion was an already daunting task, but it didn’t help Animal Collective to sound nervously erratic and spastic for their follow-up. Also doesn’t help that “Today’s Supernatural” of all tracks was chosen as the lead single. “Father Time” and “Wide-Eyed” are some of the best songs on the album, but are mildly ruined by both irritating and ineffective singing respectively.

Death Grips- The Money Store
Anything of an experimental nature is a trial and error process, and as much hope as I have for any group who is willing to experiment (especially with rap & hip-hop), this has more errors than highlights.

Rick Ross- God Forgives, I Don’t
Proof that Rick Ross may have only gotten lucky with Teflon Don, and is probably a better supporting rapper than an actual star; kind of like the Nicolas Cage of rap. “Three Kings” is supposed to be a highlight of the album (featuring Dr. Dre and Jay-Z) that instead turns out to be a boast of undermining proportions. Still, Ross means well, and has sounds like he's having fun doing it.

Grizzly Bear- Shields
Beyond “Sleeping Ute,” I just don’t feel one way or another about this album. Which is unfortunate considering the great reviews it has received. Maybe this one will make sense to me in a few years.

Dirty Projectors- Swing Lo Magellan
I really don’t remember much from this one other than a bunch of hand-clapping, and supposedly this is their most accessible album. Still, it’s an indie rock album that wants so desperately to be a light-hearted industrial album, and I guess that counts for something. “Dance for You” “Maybe That Was It”

Kanye West presents G.O.O.D. Music- Cruel Summer
You turn Kanye’s buddies loose in a studio and this is what you get: an overly eager mixtape that has flashes of brilliance, but overall is no flash in the pan. "Mercy" "Cold"

Jack White- Blunderbuss
The Raconteurs and Dead Weather apparently aren’t enough for Jack White as he has felt the need to strike out on his own and release an indistinguishable album under his own name. Other than “Weep Themselves to Sleep,” I’m immune to its supposed blues-rock/garage-rock charm.

Soundgarden- King Animal
It’s hard to tell if Soundgarden have used age to their advantage on Animal given its mixed consistency, but instead of recapturing the spirit of Superunknown (which is probably not something to be attempted in the first place), the band inadvertently recaptures the spirit of Down on the Upside, only vaguer.  

Van Halen- A Different Kind of Truth
The band sounds as vital as ever, but doesn’t exactly warrant 50 minutes. Gives aged metalheads something to bang to, but not too hard.

Albums I would have liked to get to:

Joe Bonamassa- Driving Towards the Daylight
Van Morrison- Born to Sing: No Plan B
Mumford & Sons- Babel
Leonard Cohen- Old Ideas
Fun.- Some Nights
Corrosion of Conformity- Corrosion of Conformity
Bruce Springsteen- Wrecking Ball
The Shins- Port of Morrow
Killing Joke- MMXII
Spiritualized- Sweet Heart, Sweet Light

Albums I’m Glad I Skipped:

Lana Del Rey- Born to Die/Paradise
Wiz Khalifa- O.N.I.F.C.
Chris Brown- Fortune
Rihanna- Unapologetic
Killers- Battle Born
Cannibal Corpse- Torture
One Direction- Take Me Home
Ringo Starr- 2012
Madonna- MDNA
Nicki Minaj- Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded

Stay tuned for my lists of the best and worst 2012 had to offer.